OLYMPIA, Wash. — A group of House Democrats on Thursday announced measures that would eliminate, narrow or change tax breaks for big businesses in Washington such as the Boeing Co. and banks, saying the state's tax system unfairly favors wealthy corporations.
One of five proposals introduced at a news conference would tie Boeing's eligibility for tax-breaks to the amount of people they employ in Washington. It's sponsored by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett. Under another, corporations would no longer get a sales-tax exemption for buying, repairing and retrofitting large private airplanes. Individuals could still benefit from that exemption.
The resulting haul for the state would total more than $87 million through 2019, according to nonpartisan staff and the state's Department of Revenue.
"I don't think the hardworking families in my district want to see millions of dollars handed out to corporations that aren't paying their fair share or giving back," said Rep. Marcus Riccelli, a Democrat from Spokane.
The bill aimed at Boeing is a tweaked version of House Bill 2638 that was not approved by a Democratic-controlled committee. Robinson's new bill would require Boeing to pay $2,500 to the state's education legacy trust account for each job cut from the state below a baseline of 83,295 in order to claim a preferential business and operation tax rate. That was the number of Boeing jobs in Washington when, in a 2013 special session, the Legislature passed $9 billion in tax-benefits for the company through 2040, the release says.
The tax-break package was aimed at landing production of the 777X in Everett. The state's trust account pays out to common schools and financial aid for higher education, among other things.
"This is a very particular conversation that we are trying to have in light of additional Boeing jobs leaving our state," said Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, the primary sponsor of one bill in the handful. Boeing announced in early February that it was eliminating commercial airplane jobs as part of a cost-cutting effort, but it did not provide specific numbers.
Farrell said large corporations need to provide jobs to get tax benefits. A Boeing spokeswoman said the company had not seen the full proposal and would not comment.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, doesn't support Robinson's proposal in part because the state doesn't need any new taxes to balance the budget, he said in a phone interview Thursday.
"The aerospace industry is a huge benefit to the state of Washington," he said.
Schoesler added the exemption for corporations buying or repairing large private airplanes was intended to create jobs. Corporations can be small, he said, and hardly any people refurbishing airplanes operate as individuals.
Democrats speaking at the news conference would not say whether the package would be included in the House's supplemental budget proposal, released next week.